Closed mind

A few years ago, almost 5 to be exact, I embarked a journey. I decided to utilize a service dog to help mitigate some of the problems my disabilities cause. It was not a decision I made lightly. Up until then, I had owned pet dogs. You know, the kind that come when they feel like it and maybe sit for 2 seconds. I was about to train a dog for some very specialized work, so I went looking for answers.

At first, I did what we all do. I joined every social media group relating to service dogs. I bookmarked page after page of organizations and blogs that related to service dogs. There was lots of information, At the time, I didn’t know anything about training so it all seemed valid.

And then I was schooled. People started criticizing the breed of dog I was training, the type of leash I used, the way I walked, the words I used to train and pretty much everything else I did. At first, it was confusing. Then it became downright hurtful. I learned that there are people in the service dog community that only want to tear down in the name of helping.

I also learned there are poseurs, liars, cheats and downright hostile individuals in the service dog world. I shouldn’t be surprised because, well, they’re people and you’ll find that all types across humanity. I became disillusioned and decided to leave all that behind. Unfortunately, it still occasionally catches up with me.

Poseurs, or people who think they are the best trainer EVER, still catch me off guard. They look good. They talk a good talk. And then, comes the walk. The walk reveals that they really don’t know what they are doing. The walk reveals that they lack the true insight into working with dogs to get the best results. The walk reveals that their dog is nothing more than a highly trained pet.

They’re not the fakers you hear about in the news. These people do have disabilities that could be mitigated by a service dog, which is what the law requires if you’re going to work a dog. Yet, their dogs just lack….something. It makes me uncomfortable to be around a dog that doesn’t “work.” Yes, I know “work” looks different across the board. These people just seem to have a dog.

My first instinct is to try to figure out why I feel this way. Then I want to help. Which is when I get smacked upside the head. You would think I learned my lesson by now. It’s like raising a child. No one really wants your thoughts because they already KNOW everything and feel their way is the best way. I’m left wondering why people even ask for comments if all they are going to do is get pissed off and lash out.

So, here I am. Five years of service dog training and handling experience that apparently means nothing to anyone but me. Forty-five years of living with dogs and learning about their behaviors, which also means nothing to anyone but me. A sense of wonder at why people refuse to accept that there may be other ways to do things. To consider that there are vast amounts of knowledge at their fingertips that could make their journey easier.

I guess it’s all in your attitude. Are you willing to accept that someone else may have ideas that could help you? Or are you firmly entrenched in your views and unwilling to see what others see? A closed mind is the biggest disability out there.

PS: While this is about service dogs, you can plug in just about any noun and it will still apply.

Why fakers ruin my life

So here’s the thing. I’ve been fairly liberal by most standards about service dogs.¬† I don’t judge other people’s choices and how they handle their SD. On Tuesday, my SD Blizzard was attacked by another dog in an office building. Nothing serious, but it threw both of us off our rhythm. I seriously doubt that the other dog was a service dog, since we were sitting down when this dog lunged at us and there was no provocation.

I went to work on Wednesday, only to find not one, but two pets were in the building. One pet the principal knew about, the other he did not. The principal did tell the “unknown” pet’s owner to remove the dog. What happened next should set many people’s hackles up.

I was told I had to check in with the other teacher to confirm I would be working that day. Then she would know when she could bring in her pet. The pet that, on my second day of work, the owner told me would probably attack Blizzard because the dog was territorial. Honestly, I lost it right there in the principal’s office.

It’s a slap in the face. I had to provide proof of insurance, doctor’s note and current vet exam/vaccination record for my SD in order to even get the job. This teacher gets to bring her pet to school with no accountability. Second…WTH! It’s pretty common knowledge that SDs have right of way over pets and even therapy dogs.

Back to the slap in the face. I’m sure you’ve seen something about “fake” SDs in the news. if not, just Google it. Here are two very personal examples of why “fake” service dogs are a problem. My SD was bitten by a dog wearing a $30 vest. I’m supposed to forgo my dog so someone can have their known aggressive pet in the workplace. My SD has undergone hundreds of hours of training to do her job. She has saved my life 6 times so far. We’re not just talking about making me feel good. We’re talking about call an ambulance and pray I don’t die on the way situations. Yes, “fake” SDs are a slap in the face too.

I get it. You love Fido or Fluffy. I love my pet Dane too. But, you are endangering my life by assuming your pet will be “fine” in public. You are risking my life because you are being selfish. Period.

Yes, selfish. Are you really disabled? I can’t tell by looking at you. Does your dog mitigate a disability? Again, I can’t tell by looking at you. But if you are honest with yourself, you know the answers to these questions. SDs are not robots and they do mess up. But you won’t find one barking hysterically unless the handler is down. You won’t find one lunging and biting other dogs. You won’t find one hidden away in a purse.

So, there you have it. Many of my social media friends don’t understand why this situation is so upsetting to me. What’s the big deal? Well, I can’t do my job. My SD can’t do her job. We’re constantly watching for another dog attack now. Asking me to go out of my way for a non-disabled person is discrimination in the workplace. No, I won’t “work it out.”¬† I shouldn’t have to and you never should have asked.